Monday, April 12, 2010

The great Hindraf debate

R. Shan sent a letter to the editor lambasting me on my yesterday’s article on Hindraf (I’m part Orang Asli and proud of it). Instead of publishing it in the letters section I have decided to publish this letter in this column so that I can reply to it. This is my rebuttal to R. Shan’s rebuttal. I have not edited the letter to avoid being accused of changing anything -- so forgive me for the typos.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Dear Shan, first of all, in all sincerity, thank you for responding to my article. Most people post comments in this Blog praising me and while I appreciate the gesture it leaves me very little room to sharpen my debating skills -- which I am most proud of seeing that I debated teams of six or seven Special Branch officers during my ISA detentions in 2001 and 2008 and won each time. I even sent the so-called religious scholars from JAKIM packing during our debate on Islam. So I need the training in the event I, again, need to face my jailors in a debate.

Sorry about praising myself in that first paragraph but, as I said, I speak in all sincerity and this is, after all, a no holds barred column.

Okay, now let us get down to your points. Maybe I should have added “according to the point of view of most or many Malays” and then make my observations as I did.

You see, when I write, I do not always just give my point of view but the point of view of the man on the street. Malaysia Today is a sounding board of public opinion. For example, I whack Anwar Ibrahim and the Selangor Menteri Besar, Khalid Ibrahim, but when I meet them face-to-face I hug them.

I whack Anwar and Khalid because the people who voted for Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election are unhappy about certain things and they express this unhappiness to me. It is my duty, therefore, to raise these concerns so that Anwar and Khalid can get the feel of the pulse of the nation about how they have performed since 8 March 2008.

So, what I write may not always be what I personally feel but what the majority perceive. You can say I sort of play the Devil’s Advocate when I express my views.

When I said that Hindraf should invite us to participate in or join their cause, I did not mean they should send me an official letter or a printed invitation card. But if word is sent out rest assured we would be there.

For example, the Hindraf supporters once did prayers at a Hindu temple in Batang Kali. We were told about it and Sam Haris and a few of the Bloggers/activists, some Malay, attended that event. P.I. Bala’s nephew was also there and we spent some time talking so he can testify to our presence that night.

Being Malay and therefore Muslim it was certainly a sensitive issue. I mean, attending prayers at a Hindu temple would be frowned upon and Umno would have whacked us good and proper had they found out. Nevertheless, we went anyway although when they conducted the prayers we did not also pray but stood in the background to just watch.

There was one Indian Special Branch officer there and his presence was clearly meant to intimidate those who came for the prayers since it was a Hindraf organised event. I went up to the Special Branch officer to ask him whether he was a Hindu and he said yes. I then asked him whether he is not ashamed of himself. He is Hindu and yet he is trying to disrupt the prayers while Muslims like us support the effort. He walked off after that, probably quite embarrassed that a Muslim was telling a Hindu not to disturb the Hindus trying to pray.

The reason I and those other Malay activists attended the prayers at the Hindu temple was because it was organised by Hindraf and we support the Hindraf cause, even if it involved attending prayers in a Hindu temple. Unfortunately, other than that prayer event in the Hindu temple in Batang Kali (and another in Jalan Bandar in KL), we were not invited to any other Hindraf event, which was quite disappointing.

I know that Hindraf is not a registered organisation so there is no way we can fill in a form and pay RM1 to become an official member. But there are ways we can ‘join’ Hindraf, if you know what I mean.

In the run-up to the 8 March 2008 general election, YB Ronnie Liu, Bala of Bangsar, my wife, and I, went to Manoharan’s house in Puchong to meet his wife. The purpose of the visit was to send a message to the five Hindraf ISA detainees in Kamunting (Hindraf 5) and convince them to contest the general election. Of course, there was no way we would have been allowed to visit the Hindraf 5 in Kamunting so we had to ‘speak’ to them through Manoharan’s wife.

Our idea was that we would help get five parliament seats for all the Hindraf 5 to contest. In the meantime, we spoke to PKR, DAP and PAS asking them for five seats. If DAP can give Hindraf just two seats then PKR can give them another two and maybe one from PAS. I also spoke to Dr Zul of PAS and asked him whether PAS was prepared to give them five seats in the event DAP and PKR does not have spare seats seeing that it was a bit late in the day and all the seats were already taken.

PAS was quite prepared to shuffle their candidates around and try to accommodate the Hindraf 5 in the event DAP and PKR had no spare slots. Dr Zul actually found it quite exciting that an Islamic party will be opening its doors to Hindu activists. Imagine an Islamic party that had always been portrayed as extremist fields five Hindu activists under its banner.

If you can remember, PAS did, in fact, field one Indian candidate in Johor. And it was a woman on top of that. She was a lawyer and Hindu of course. That was Ustaz Mahfuz’s handiwork and I thought it was a great move although, unfortunately, she did not win mainly because Johor was a tough state to win. Now, if she had contested further North instead, she would most likely have won.

I told Ronnie that I had spoken to Dr Zul and most likely PAS will accommodate all five Hindraf detainees in Kamunting. At the DAP convention in Penang that same weekend, Ronnie made a press statement and announced that DAP is going to offer seats to all five Hindraf detainees in Kamunting. Bala of Bangsar was also there and he was beaming from ear to ear.

Even Lim Kit Siang was taken off-guard because the party had yet to discuss the matter and come to an agreement on offering the Hindraf 5 seats to contest.

Anyway, the press announcement had been made and there was no turning back (very naughty of Ronnie). Ronnie said he was prepared to offer his Pandamaran state seat to Charles Santiago if Charles was prepared to give his Kelang parliament seat to Hindraf. Ronnie would therefore not contest the general election if need be. He was prepared to make a personal sacrifice for Hindraf (and today he would not be a Selangor EXCO Member).

Manoharan’s wife came back from Kamunting and told us that only one, Manoharan himself, wanted to contest the election. The other four were not interested. Furthermore, Manoharan wanted to contest a state seat, not a parliament seat.

We were devastated. We had hoped all five would contest the general election and that they would contest parliament seats, not state seats. The Indian cause is a national issue and Parliament would have been a better platform to further their cause. What can one do in the State Assembly, especially if the state was under Barisan Nasional and you are merely an opposition State Assemblyman (of course we did not know then that Pakatan Rakyat would win Selangor)?

My wife then spoke to Manoharan’s wife to try to organise a support group for the wives of the Hindraf detainees. This was what they did in 2001 when the Reformasi activists were detained under the ISA and sent to Kamunting. This wives support group was later extended to the wives of the JI, KMM, etc., detainees.

Wives of ISA detainees suffer as much as their husbands under detention. They need not only financial support but also counselling as well because of the mental trauma they have to endure. And my wife wanted to see how the women can help the wives of the Hindraf 5 (or 4 wives as one is not married).

The sad thing is my wife was told that the Hindraf wives do not talk to each other. It seems their husbands in Kamunting had quarrelled and no longer talk to each other. So the quarrel in Kamunting spilled over to their wives.

When I was sent to Kamunting in September 2008 I kept in touch with the Hindraf 5. I also wrote an official letter to the prison authorities requesting to be transferred to the Hindraf block. The camp commander called me to his office and asked me which Hindraf group I wanted to move in with. There are three groups, he told me.

I then spoke to one of the guards who I had befriended and asked him about what was going on in the Hindraf block and he told me that the five are now split into three groups and have in fact requested to be transferred to separate blocks. I was quite disturbed. Nevertheless, I kept in touch with all five and did not take sides in the quarrel. Uthaya actually helped smuggle paper and pen to my cell so that I could continue writing my articles.

On the Anwar Ibrahim EDM that you mentioned, it is very true that Moorthy was the person who initiated it. The EDM was actually my idea and I thought that since Moorthy is in London and had all the right contacts then maybe he could help. So I got in touch with Moorthy, as a person and not as Hindraf, and requested his help. It was more a personal thing.

Somehow Hindraf’s name emerged as the initiator of the EDM but this was not a problem as what is important is the success of the exercise and not whose idea it was or whose effort made it possible. And certainly we must thank Moorthy for this.

So you see, Shan, behind the scenes we have been making all sorts of attempts to work with Hindraf and support the Indian cause. Though things did not quite work out as what we had hoped, nevertheless it was not because of lack of trying. We understood that Hindraf may be new at this activist game and is still feeling its way around. If the Hindraf 5 had all accepted our offer to contest the general election as parliamentary candidates they would have won because they would have been given safe and sure-win seats. And, today, we would have five Hindraf leaders in parliament where they could pursue their cause further at national level.

In spite of there being no card-bearing members of Hindraf, I still would like to be part of Hindraf so that the perception amongst the Malays that Hindraf is a racist organisation can be dispelled. How can Hindraf be racist when Malays too join them? And there would be many Malays who would ‘sign up’ as a Hindraf member.

This is also a good measurement of Hindraf’s support. If Hindraf can sign up one million members then this proves it is relevant. If it gets only a handful of members then Hindraf would understand that it does not really have that support it thinks it has.

Maybe it is time that Hindraf register itself and if it cannot get registered in Malaysia, as it most likely can’t, then Hindraf should register offshore like in the UK. What’s to stop Hindraf from registering the organisation in the UK? And since Moorthy is in the UK he could easily do that. Then those from Malaysia who want to sign up as a card-bearing member of Hindraf can do so as a ‘Hindraf International’ member, legally registered in the UK.

You must understand, Shan, politicians only understand and respect peoples’ power. If the majority of the people are seen to be with you then politicians will sit up and listen. But if you were perceived as not that significant then politicians would be very slow in reacting. Hindraf has to show that it has mass support. And to do this you need everyone to stand up to be counted. This is not currently happening in Hindraf. Can you prove how many ‘members’ Hindraf has?

True, the Indian vote was a factor in the 8 March 2008 general election. But 8 March 2008 was a political Tsunami involving all races. It was not just about the Indian vote. Even if 100% of the Indian voters had voted opposition on 8 March 2008 but the Malays and Chinese had voted ruling party we would not have seen what we saw. Therefore, it was a unity of Malays, Chinese and Indians that made 8 March 2008 possible.

Therefore, while we applaud the Indian swing, we must not forget the Malay and Chinese swing as well. To talk as if only the Indians gave the opposition the 8 March 2008 win is downplaying the role of the other races. It was a combined effort and all races need to be applauded.

I personally saw Hindraf members in Kelang wearing PAS T-shirts and carrying PAS flags. They escorted me to a DAP ceramah in a temple while shouting “Makhal Sakhti” and “Allahuakhbar”. It was not even a PAS ceramah and the candidates were Chinese and Indians from DAP. I must admit that I cried when I saw this.
When I got out of the car the Hindraf boys surrounded me and hugged me. How does one not cry when something like this happens?

There is much unhappiness at the top. The Indian leaders in Pakatan Rakyat moan and grumble. But lower down at the grassroots level the Indians from Hindraf are very united with their Malay and Chinese brothers and sisters. Whenever I attend ceramahs there are dozens of Hindraf activists surrounding me. They make sure that nothing happens to me.

At times I had to request my Hindraf ‘bodyguards’ to be not too overzealous and to allow the Indian supporters who want to hug me and shake my hand to come forward. My Hindraf bodyguards were of course worried that someone in the crowd might stab me with a knife or something like that. I told my Hindraf bodyguards that God will protect me and they responded with “Allahuakhbar!”

Shan, rest assured that I love my Hindraf brothers and sisters. Those who acted as my bodyguards placed themselves at great risk in their effort to protect me from any possible knife attack. One chap told me he had been instructed not to leave my side and in the event something happens he is to stop the knife with his body.

Shan, do you know that in some places where I went even the 08 boys came out to protect me? Yes, the 08 gangsters. I had Indian gangsters with long criminal records who wanted to make sure that I remained safe when I went round shaking the hands of the Indian supporters. And when I told them that I too used to ‘run’ with the 08 boys in Brickfields back in the 1960s they carried me on the shoulders. I felt quite embarrassed at being given this ‘royal’ treatment.

When the Indian port workers in Kelang celebrated Merdeka Day they asked me to grace the event by raising the Malaysian flag. I asked them why not give the honour to the Selangor Sultan or to one of the political leaders instead. After all, I am only a Blogger and of no significance. They replied that I am considered one of the Hindraf leaders so they wanted me to honour them by raising the Malaysian flag and give a speech to the Indians.

No, Shan, I do not wish to take over as the Hindraf leader. But the manner in which the Hindraf grassroots treat me can’t but make me feel I am one of them. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with the Hindraf grassroots. It is the leadership that is messing things up.

That is my view.


RPK – Are you factual or delusional on HINDRAF?

It is rather perturbing that someone of RPK’s statute is unable to distinguish between the true goals of HINDRAF and what it is made out to be.

Nobody questions your integrity nor your battle for Malaysians per say but however I feel that you maybe delusional in portraying HINDRAF as a racist organization.

In your recent writing, there was not an ounce of factual factor to prove HINDRAF racist except what subjectively that you have concluded. Such sweeping statement such HINDRAF and PERKASA are the same side the opposite coin only reflects, the illusion that is seldom observed in your writing unless you have your own agenda to state so in mere desperation for the opposition party.

HINDRAF does not have membership nor does it fail to engage other Malaysians, but whether other would join them is the question with such bigoted views. If they are such hard heads, then why should they take the trouble to organize the briefing in house of Common for the natives from East Malaysia as well as initiating the EDM for Anwar Ibrahim? You see, this is factual not illusion.

You further state that they must declare all non-Indians are not the enemy. Frankly if that was the case, the above would not have happened? Again, I feel you are delusional on the objectivity of HINDRAF. They never declared this, but that is a perception that you write on on you’re your own subjective notion.

Pre-election of 2008, HINDRAF supporters and rallied for the opposition even became PAS supporter to ensure the demise of UMNO and they supported even hapless donkeys that were put up by the opposition with an intention of hoping that they will be treated equally and fairly in a so called Malaysia and escape from the clutches of marginalization and discrimination that they had faced for the last 53 years. They vote for Malaysian not Indian. This is factual and not illusion.

Dear RPK, I don’t think HINDRAF has a problem with other Malaysians, but they are are more attuned towards the Malaysian Indian dilemma to bring the balance for the Indians who for far too long have been neglected and marginalized from the mainstream development of Malaysia. This is factual. Look around you, highest suicidal rate, highest crime rate, lowest literacy, business opportunity in form of percentage of the population, so who was the racist in sidelining this segment of the society if it is Malaysian that you clamour about? Where were all these Malaysians all this while until HINDRAF came?

Let’s not even look further, look at your newspaper advertisement for job opportunities, even there is racism as they is always what is the preferred race, so much for your illusional racism of HINDRAF.

Presently at least in your site, the grouses against HINDRAF seems to be directed because they are questioning the opposition on what has been done to protect and enhance the rights of the Malaysian Indians at least in their four states. Now do you think this is something unfair or just racist?

Look man, be practical, economically the Chinese are in power and politically and vote count basis, the Malays are in power, and that is very transparent if you see what happened in the pig abattoir issue in Kedah, as well as the 349 planned villages and 134 new villages with 110,000 and 102,000 titles respectively are to be given out irrespective of the National Land Council’s order, involving almost all Malay and Chinese owners and land recipients. Freehold titles were given for just RM63 to 110,000 planned villages (almost 99% Malay) and 102,000 (estimated to almost 99% Chinese) Chinese new villagers in Perak. The then PKR, DAP and PAS state government also allocated 1,000ha (about 2,500 acres) of land to nine Chinese schools.

Now, what happened to the Malaysian Indians at least in Perak, are you telling me they don’t have land issue for schools, crematorium, temples and squatters in Perak? What happened to them, aren’t they as much as Malaysian as those who have benefited with opposition? This is factual, not your figment of imagination that HINDRAF is racist.

The Malaysian Indians have also been the scapegoat and bashing boy, no matter who is in power, and presently have reached a tolerance level for those who despair. Someone have to battle for them genuinely and that is what HINDRAF have been doing without choosing or picking sides as long as the Malaysian Indians are given a fair share of what is just in reality not just some paper chase for the encapsulated opinion that your have in your illusion of HINDRAF.

So you want to join HINDRAF, why, you don’t even need an invitation, you can just pick the phone and call the relevant person and you know who they are. Talk to them see and understand their aspiration, then tell us your tale why do you think they are racist based on your own deduction of rationality from the horse’s mouth rather that one deluded for the political will under the current circumstances.

It is funny though, how easily you make calculation and write off the HINDRAF factor, but life is not all about calculation, but what is real and humane to deal with. Many times you repeat yourself that you are ready to support HINDRAF cause, yet contradict yourself in branding them as racist with an adulterated subjective layman synopsis without an objective. This conviction itself may prove to be a bridge to abridge your opinion if your see what is factual as oppose to what is delusional in your perception of HINDRAF as a racist.

Let me leave you with a quote – ‘Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools speak because they have to say something – Plato

R. Shan (Human Being)

courtesy of

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